Wearable tech saw record sales in Q1 of 2021, analysts say

The Apple Watch SE.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Market analysts at the International Data Corporation are pointing out strong sales in the wearable tech category, with device shipments topping out at 104.6 million units in the first quarter of 2021. That’s 34.4% more than the year before, and the first time that first-quarter sales for gadgets like smart watches, connected eyeglasses, and fitness trackers have topped 100 million.

Interestingly, IDC notes that while industry titans like Apple and Samsung are maintaining their double-digit shares of the market, it’s an influx of smaller names driving much of the gains.

“Larger companies have certainly drawn attention to the worldwide wearables market, yet it is the smaller companies fueling growth,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables Team. “Rather than compete head-to-head with products similar to the market leaders, these smaller companies have instead focused on specific markets and thrived with different solutions.”

Specifically, IDC points to companies like BoAt, a company focusing on smart earwear for the Indian market, and Oura, which makes a fitness-tracking ring popular with major sports teams and enthusiasts, as significant market movers. Smaller names like those often fall into the ‘Others’ subcategory within the wearable field, and IDC notes devices in the Others category saw year-over-year growth of more than 55%.

“Not only is the market being fueled by smaller brands, but newer form factors are also starting to gain some traction,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Wearable patches, rings, and even audio glasses are starting to differentiate themselves from the typical watches, bands, and headphones by offering tech that is hidden yet functional.”

As for the category leaders, Apple holds the top spot with a 28.8% market share, down from 32.3% a year before. Samsung sits at second with 11.3%, slightly up from its 11.2% market share in Q1 of 2020. Xiaomi comes in at third with a 9.7% market share, and was the only top-five company to experience a year-over-year decline in Q1 shipments, with the company’s gains offset by declining wristband volumes.

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